NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) recently announced that a Canadian astronaut will fly as part of the crew of Artemis II. This mission, scheduled for 2023, will see an Orion space capsule complete a circular flight, flying around the moon without landing. This will be the first of two crewing options that NASA will provide Canadian astronauts on Artemis missions (under the agreement).
This flight around the moon paves the way Artemis III mission in 2024, which will see astronauts return to the moon’s surface for the first time in over 50 years. The announcement was made last week (Wednesday, December 16) by Navdeep Bain and Lisa Cambell, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and President of the CSA respectively.
This mission will be a historic event, as only American astronauts have ever traveled beyond Earth, which is something that has not happened since the last days of the Apollo era in 1972. The mission will also make Canada the second nation in the world. , which sends an astronaut around the Moon.
The chosen astronauts will also have the honor of being part of the mission that sets the record for longest human journey beyond the other side of the Moon. While Artemis II will be the first of two Artemis missions that will include a Canadian astronaut, the second flight will be to the Lunar Gateway once assembled (by 2030).
This is an agreement that is in line with the long-standing tradition of cooperation between Canada and the United States that has existed since the earliest days of the space age. In terms of human spaceflight, Canada built Canadarm for the Space Shuttle program. This was followed by Canadarm2, which was installed on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001, which played a vital role in the construction of the station.
Which of Canada’s astronauts is going to go remains TBD, but it will be one of CSA’s four active astronauts – who was also present at the announcement. They include:
- Colonel Jeremy Hansen: a former fighter pilot and Combat Operations Officer (COO) with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), Hansen was born in London, Ontario, in 1974. He was selected by the CSA in May 2009 through the third Canadian astronaut recruitment campaign and is one of 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class.
- Jennifer Sidey-Gibbons: Sidney-Gibbons was born in Calgary, Alberta, in 1988 and is a former mechanical engineer and assistant professor of internal combustion engines at the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. The 1st of JulySt., 2017 (Canadas 150th Anniversary) she was recruited by the CSA as one of two new astronauts.
- Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Kutryk: Born in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, in 1982, Kutryk is a mechanical engineer and former RCAF test / fighter. He was also selected by the CSA in 2017 through the fourth Canadian astronaut recruitment campaign.
- David Saint-Jacques: Born in Saint-Lambert, Quebec, in 1970, Saint-Jacques is an engineer and astrophysicist. He is also an adjunct professor of family medicine at McGill University and a former physician and co-director of medicine at the Inuulitsivik Health Center in Puvirnituq, Nunavik, where he oversees the education of medicines. He joined the CSA in 2009 as part of NASA’s 20th astronaut class and spent 204 days aboard the ISS as part of Expedition 58/59 (December 2018 – June 2019).
Canada will also be responsible for providing the Lunar Gateway with its external robotics system, which includes Canadarm3 (a robotic system designed to operate autonomously). The agreement to cooperate on Gateway was concluded as part of the astronaut agreement and also calls on Canada to provide the Gateway modules with robotic interfaces.
Canadarm3 is also installing the first two scientific instruments for Gateway. These will be NASA’s Heliophysics Environmental and Radiation Measuring Experiment Suite (HERMES) and ESA’s European Radiation Sensors Array (ERSA) experiments – which will improve the weather forecast for astronauts. As Dan Hartman, Gateway presenter at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, put it:
CSA’s advanced robotic contribution with Canadarm3 builds on our long space history together, enabling us to perform critical long-term sustainability and maintenance functions, comprehensive inspection of the external gateway and its associated vehicles and service of external payloads to support our worldwide research initiatives .
“Our efforts are well underway at Gateway to integrate CSA’s robotic engineering system with arm attachment points and less agile adapters already incorporated into individual Gateway modules, including PPE (power and propulsion element), HALO (residential and logistics outpost), Gateway logistics, and international housing elements. ”
The gateway is a key element of NASA’s long-term goal of establishing a “sustainable exploration program for the moon.” By 2030, this will include a surface element (Artemis Base Camp) located in the cratered and permanently shady southern Polish Aitken basin. NASA plans to launch the first two segments of the Gateway – a power and propulsion element (PPE) and a residential and logistics outpost (HALO) – in 2023.
However, the station will not be used as a temporary habitat to visit astronauts until other segments are delivered before the end of the decade. These will be provided by CSA, European Space Agency (ESA) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Once operational, the Gateway is paired with a recyclable human lander system (HLS) that allows astronauts to travel to and from the moon’s surface.
Together with Artemis Base Camp, NASA and other agencies will be able to send missions to the Moon for extended periods. In the long run, Gateway will be paired with Deep Space Transport (DST), enabling manned missions to Mars and beyond. Before any of this can happen, however, NASA must validate Orion, Space Launch System (SLS) and other elements of Project Artemis for crew missions.
That Artemis II mission will be the first time that astronauts go into space using one Orion space capsule, which is also test launched without crew. As Bain said, the mission “will allow us to continue our tradition of being world leaders in space exploration. It is exciting. It’s a start. And it gives us hope for the future in these challenging times. ”
In a statement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine praised the spirit of cooperation that exists between the two space organizations. This included Canada as the first international partner to commit to the Gateway program last year and one of the first countries to sign up to the Artemis Agreement in October last year. As he said:
“Canada was the first international partner to commit to promoting Gateway in early 2019, they signed the Artemis agreements in October and now we are happy to formalize this partnership to explore the moon. This agreement represents a development of our collaboration with CSA, providing the next generation of robotic technology that has supported decades of space missions on the space shuttle and the International Space Station and now to Artemis. ”
The first test flight of SLS and Orion (Artemis I) a test-free flight with SLS / Orion is scheduled for November 2021. Artemis III, landing “the first woman and the next man” on the Moon for the first time in over 50 years, is currently scheduled for October 2024. There is doubt that NASA will be able to meet this rapid timeline, as VP Pence announced in 2019 on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Landing.
Part of the problem is budgetary. At present, the US Congress has not approved the necessary funding only for FY2021 ($ 3.4 billion) to keep the project going. HLS, which has become indispensable since Lunar Gateway was prioritized in March last year, is still in the design phase. NASA announced the three companies competing to develop an HLS (SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics) in late April.
There is also SLS, which has experienced several delays that have forced the date Artemis I to be pushed back several times at this point. And with a new administration taking office on January 20thth, 2021, NASA may be able to free itself from its tough deadline of 2024, which may mean that its priorities will be shifted slightly in the coming year.
But one thing that will not change is NASA and its international partners (CSA, ESA, JAXA and maybe even Russia and China)’s commitment to return to the Moon this decade (and lay the groundwork for a permanent human presence). NASA is also deep in the process of deciding who to go on the first manned Artemis mission and subsequent.
During the same meeting, NASA presented the astronauts who will be part of the 18-member Artemis Team. And as Hansen said, no matter what lucky CSA astronaut stays Artemis II will do so on behalf of Canada and the astronaut team as a whole:
“We will all work to achieve this goal on behalf of Canada. One of the things that is really important to us as an astronaut corps is that we are a team and that we take these big challenges together. We look out for each other and it does not turn into a competitive process but becomes a process where we lift each other up all the way. ”
Further reading: CSA, NASA, Space policy online, SpaceFlightNow